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Featured Museum Piece

Ivanhoe Flow Blue Pieces by Wedgwood

This month, from our museum we feature a selection of very interesting and very rare “flow blue” dinnerware pieces from the Ivanhoe pattern by Wedgwood. “Flow blue” pieces are typically porcelain or stoneware onto which intricate designs are applied using a transfer printing process and specialized firing techniques to create fascinating “blurred blue” designs. Many of these pieces have become highly-valued and collectible.

Included in this month’s museum feature are two sauce boats ( sauce boat 1, sauce boat 2) and handled underplates ( underplate 1, underplate 2), a very rare ladle, and a covered vegetable dish. Each piece in this collection is notable for detailed depictions of characters from the “Ivanhoe” story written in 1819 by Sir Walter Scott. Our research staff believes these flow blue pieces were produced sometime between 1891 and 1920, though we have been unable to determine an exact date of production for the Ivanhoe pattern (as is the case with many flow blue patterns).

Flow Blue pieces originated in the historic pottery district of Staffordshire, England. The first appearance of flow blue pottery is believed to have occurred during the 1820’s. Although there is some dispute as to who discovered and evolved the flow blue creation process, it is generally accepted that Josiah Wedgwood was in some way a principle in the development of this unique method of decorating dinnerware. In early flow blue china production, indigo blue ink was used in a design process known as transfer printing. In this process, a design template was created and applied to a porcelain or stoneware blank, then the ink was forced to bleed onto and penetrate the surface of the blank when a volatizing agent like ammonia was added. The amount of “flow” was then controlled by the amount of additional volatizing agent added during firing.

Early flow blue patterns featured oriental designs, and gradually transformed into fancy scrolled floral and still life images. Flow blue dinnerware designs proved to be extraordinarily popular through the mid-to-late 19th century. During this time, patterns inspired by trade with the Orient were highly desirable. Flow blue designs were based on many popular Oriental motifs, and the western upper classes believed that flow blue was ornate enough to be used at formal dinner parties. It was also, however, inexpensive enough to be collected by the general public.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the popular trend in flow blue pieces began to fade. New methods of decorating dinnerware were developed and flow blue dinnerware began to be perceived as primitive and anachronistic. Very little genuine flow blue was produced during the 20th century, and collectors had a small universe of pieces from which to choose. Recently there has been a resurgence in the popularity of flow blue, and collector groups or “societies” exist across the United States and Europe to continue the study, cataloguing, and collecting of flow blue dinnerware patterns from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

In the case of the rare flow blue pieces we feature this month, we must note that these pieces are not for sale. Fear not though, we do have a wonderful selection of flow blue patterns by Johnson Brothers, Ridgway, Villeroy and Boch, Furnival, and of course, Wedgwood that are quite amazing, and are available for purchase. If you can make it to our facilities in person to see these exquisite pieces, by all means do so! We invite you to come to our facility in person to see these wonderful pieces, and more. Our Showroom and Museum are open from 9:00am to 7:00pm ET, 7 days a week (except holidays). The Showroom and Museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you!

Click here to view our Featured Museum Pieces Archive!

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